As a former lifelong Republican from an influential family of religious right leaders, I look at the national village idiot that the Republican Party has become the way I'd contemplate a demented cousin pissing on the picnic basket at a family reunion. If it is fair to blame the years of Wahhabist hate that spewed from Saudi clerics for at least part of the 9/11 outcome (and it is) then it's also going to be fair to blame their American equivalent when domestic terror ramps up here.
I've had a chance recently to express some of what I think about the culpability of the religious right/Republicans and the so-called pro-life movement when it comes to domestic terror from "Christian" groups. Rachel Maddow interviewed me on her show again last night. Take a look then read on. I'd like to talk about the larger issue as I see it that is part of (and the context for) the Tiller murder.
I happened to be listening to a BBC 4 radio program recently that replayed an interview between William F. Buckley (an old family friend of mine and my dad's who used to drive over from Gstaad where he had a chalet and visit us for tea in Villars where Dad lived in Switzerland) and Kenneth Galbraith. The BBC announcer was using it as an example of "a level of erudite polite debate absent from British political life these days." In the light of what has happened to the American right, how revealing that the BBC would hold up William F. Buckley, once the paragon of the American right wing, as an intellectual example to be imitated when it comes to civility.
Twenty or thirty years from now I don't think that the BBC (or anyone else) will be replaying the lies, drivel and hate-mongering pouring from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the former vice president and his daughter et al as an example of anything more than the prelude to an attempted assassination against our president.
No, I'm not saying they or anyone in the public eye is planning violence. I'm talking about the culpability of smart people knowingly or unknowingly playing to the lowest common denominator and stirring up trouble in a sort of scorched-earth policy since they lost out politically. I'm talking about creating a climate where violence seems "logical" and maybe inevitable when set against a backdrop of insane talk.
The leaderless Republican Party -- or should I say the dwindling rabble of know-nothing reactionaries who still identify themselves as Republicans -- is not just politically leaderless, they are also morally leaderless. This, speaking metaphorically, is a lynch mob in the making. Like all lynch mobs only one or two will do the actual hanging. The rest are just along for the "fun," the dimwitted "tea parties," the histrionics, the entertaining brawl. And when they head to the woods to do their dirty work the preachers back in town who stirred them up Sunday after Sunday (as it were) will be wisely absent but no less culpable.
This "lynch mob" mentality is the context in which Dr. Tiller was murdered. A lot of this emerging domestic terror has to do with a larger story. It has to do with what becomes thinkable under a barrage of hateful words.
When you look at what the right wing "leaders" are saying these days it can't possibly be to win votes from the majority of the mostly centrist, sensible and pragmatic American population. Its only purpose can be to do one of three things: self-"vindicate" bad loser revenge, sell products, such as advertising on Fox News, books, speaking tours etc. and/or troll for the unhinged on a "fishing expedition" for tomorrow's assassins. And even if the latter is not the motivation, it might as well be given the sort of people we have lurking in the shadows of this country.
During President Obama's trip overseas in April, Fox News took Obama's remarks out of context to support the claim that he was on an "apology tour." Fox News made some smear of Obama's current trip painting him as a traitor to America and to Israel.
And in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh repeated his desire for President Obama to fail. Limbaugh then went the next step: he claimed that Obama was doing such a good job of destroying the country that: "If al-Qaeda wants to demolish the America we know and love, they better hurry, because Obama is beating them to it."
The former vice president has actually declared that our President is making America "less safe," in other words that he has betrayed his constitutional duty. (All our reputable national security leaders say the contrary by the way.)
When Rush Limbaugh says that President Obama is doing Osama bin Laden's work, when the historic and visionary presidential speech in Cairo is described as an "apology tour," when there are tens of thousands of Americans sitting in evangelical churches every Sunday wherein the President is vilified as an abortionist, a Communist, a secret Muslim, and even as the Antichrist, when Christian and Jewish Zionists are claiming Obama is working against God's will by trying to bring peace to Jews and Arabs... we've left recognizable political territory and entered the realm of violence-inciting delusion.
The more successful the president is with the majority of sane Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, Jews, Christians, non-believers and Muslims, the more extreme his far right Republican critics are going to become.
The 20-year-plus agitation in and around Dr. Tiller's Wichita clinic (egged on by evangelicals, Fox News and other commentators) eventually turned into a little pro-life industry with four groups raising funds and opening headquarters in that city attracted to Dr. Tiller's clinic the way cheap motels spring up around Disneyland and feed off the crumbs. So today a whole far right industry, led by Fox News, Limbaugh, the evangelicals, right wing Roman Catholics, Palin, the former vice president and his daughter -- etc. -- is growing up and into a permanent, negative and profitable hate-Obama industry. It is catering to the deluded, the paranoid, the fearful and - let's be frank - none too bright rube underbelly of white America.
There's another thing too: President Obama allows closeted racists to be open racists again. His name is now code for the "other." Because Obama is black, lived abroad and is educated, a professor and part of that hated world of higher learning that the right wing feels is a threat to their willful ignorance (and profitable misinformation campaigns), the mere utterance of his name alone by Limbaugh, Fox News etc., is the new "N" word.
The dirty secret is that cowards such as Murdoch, O'Reilly, Dobson and Limbaugh who hide behind their multimillion dollar media fortunes and protectors are smart enough to know that they are goading bottom-of-the-barrel members of the unwashed mob to take actions which they -- the media barons -- will then disavow once extreme actions are taken spurred by extreme words. Meanwhile there is commercial air time to sell, ratings to go after and revenge to be taken on a president who makes them look very, very stupid.
But make no mistake: taken at face value "The Truth" that the right-wing noise machine is grinding out is leading inexorably to violence.
The moron class of Americans who stocked up on guns and ammunition when President Obama was elected, because of fears that he would "take our guns away;" the willful fools to whom Glenn Beck is a hero, are the same population that -- right now - have their TV remotes set on Fox News 24/7. They are listening to Rush Limbaugh too as they rattle around in their pickup trucks driving to wherever they're practicing on targets but fantasizing about putting the president, or other people they hate, in their scope's cross hairs.
These are the same folks on the fringe of the "pro-life" movement who are waving huge signs wherein Obama's name is plastered on the picture of a dead fetus' and the word "murderer" is scrawled in bloody letters over our President's picture. Read the signs that were being waved by pro-lifers at Dr. Tiller's funeral. "God Sent the Killer!" Is it hard to imagine these people cheering if our president (who they all call "an abortionist") was killed?
It is time to tell the loudmouth profiteers from hate that we ordinary Americans who voted for and love our President and our country know who they are and that we will not forget what they said and said again and again and again. When some fool's fool takes them at their word and tries to do "God's will" by taking a shot at our president we will remember who put them up to it.
We may not be able to stop Cheney/Murdoch/Fox/Limbaugh et al from saying what they say, but let all decent Americans be they of the left or of the right promise them this: we'll make damn sure that their place in history is secure as the filth that they are if and when the hate words and lies are turned into action by one of their demented minions.
Any Republicans that loves their party should be leading the charge against the haters and fear mongers, not going along with them. When the worst happens -- or is attempted and it will be -- all that will be remembered about today's' Republican leadership is that they were too cowardly to speak out, change course and remember that being a conservative doesn't have to mean you are a violence-stoking liar or a complicit coward.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. He is author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back and also author of the forthcoming Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don't Like Religion (Or Atheism)